The Bully in My Family, and How to Shake Hands

Monday, February 17, 2014


Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, and was our 16th president. He guided us through the Civil War, is largely credited with abolishing slavery, and (like me) grew up in the great state of Illinois. He was pretty awesome. Today might be a good day to check out the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. 

I'll admit, I've got a certain affinity for Lincoln. My five-greats (or is it six?) grandfather, Jack Armstrong, was the one who wrestled Lincoln in New Salem, Illinois. For real, true story. Classy family history. How embarrassing that Jack is described as "the local bully" - but how great is it that they shook hands and became fast friends afterwards? I choose that part as the moral of the story.


Lincoln was the victor, but he didn't hold that over Jack. Jack was a ruffian, and he (and his gang) could have pursued Lincoln right out of New Salem. Instead, they shook hands. Lincoln became a good friend of the Armstrongs'. Jack's wife, Hannah, darned his socks and made sure he was well fed as he worked and studied law on his own. Lincoln played with their young son, Duff, and later successfully defended him in a murder trial, saving him from the gallows. 

Of course we'd all like to see ourselves as Lincoln in this story - the gracious, intelligent and humble victor. But when we "win" do we ever stretch out our hand? Maybe we are more often Jack, the local big shot who questions the new guy. Sprawled out in the dirt in defeat, do we ever sit up and extend a hand towards the victor? 

To me, this story contains many lessons in leadership, both for the winner and the loser. See, Lincoln and Jack never said who won. They called it a draw and learned how to live together. Even becoming friends.

They wrestled. They weren't afraid of the fight. 
They saw the strength in each other. They weren't blinded by superiority or pride.
They shook hands, and found a way to move forward. 

I pray that the same can happen in our country, today.

Happy Presidents Day. 


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2 Comments »

2 Responses to “The Bully in My Family, and How to Shake Hands”

  1. How cool is this?!! If only our leaders could put aside the bullying and find a way to more forward. I'm praying they will.

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  2. I love this family history! Thank you for sharing Courtney!

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